Thursday, 14 December 2006

Long, but hopefully, worth the read...

A tribute to my sister…Joanne S (01-10-72 to 01-28-06)

Christian, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law, Grand Daughter, Sister, Sister-in-Law, Aunt, Cousin, Niece, Friend, Neighbour, Co-Worker, Mentor, Confidante……..

She was a lot of things to a lot of people. She had done so much in her short life and yet, she had so much more to do…so we mere humans think. God had other plans. God knew that her mission here on earth was done. Everyone, myself included, says she was much too young to die. That’s our human mind talking. I now believe, wholeheartedly, that Joanne was put on earth with a specific purpose. A purpose that was fulfilled so much quicker than those of us left here on earth could imagine. It all makes sense, if you take the emotion out of it…let me explain.

Joanne was a born again Christian. She took Jesus into her heart early in her relationship with Mark. Her unwavering faith was a source of inspiration and comfort to many people. Many people have told me that she inspired them deeply, even those who never knew her in life…only through her death. Actually, Joanne told me once that she thinks Jesus came into her life when she was only about seven years old. We had neighbours who were born again Christians. They prayed with Joanne and actually scared the daylights out of her because of their very strong words and their threat that if she didn’t accept Jesus into her heart, she would never get to Heaven. After several nights of nightmares, Joanne told my parents about the neighbours’ words and my parents did their best to quell those fears and Joanne put it out of her mind…She admitted later that the nagging feeling inside was always there, but she continually pushed it aside. Only when she met Mark, did she start going to church and really start acknowledging that nagging feeling, eventually being born again.

Once Joanne accepted her faith, there was no stopping her. She was an active member at her church and at Awana. She truly led a Christian life in everything she did and said. She stuck up for Christianity whenever necessary. She had no fear, no embarrassment. What she had was pride and purpose. She wanted to tell everyone who would listen (and even those who wouldn’t listen) all about Jesus, and what was in store for us in Heaven…if we’d just believe in Him.

Oh, the arguments Joanne and I used to have about passages in the Bible! She believed that the Bible should be read in the literal sense. What was written actually happened. I believe that a lot of the stories in the Bible are more like examples for us to learn from as opposed to living literally. She would come back to me after a few days, armed with her biblical ammunition, verse by verse to prove me wrong. 99% of the time, she did just that! I would just laugh at her and her “bible thumping” ways. She never denied being a “thumper”…she knew and was proud of it, even calling herself a thumper!

Joanne was hungry for knowledge. Always. She would ask questions of people about their religions. Muslim, Jewish, Christian, you name it. She wanted to understand WHY people believed what they believed and if there was a chance that she could “convert” you, she would. For she so believed in Jesus that she wanted everyone else to believe too. She was on a mission to SAVE people. To make sure they would get to Heaven, just like her. Make no mistake, she knew with every fibre of her being that she was headed straight to the top…straight to Heaven…on the express route. She knew that all it took was to believe in Him. And man oh man, did she believe.

Joanne raised her young children to be Christians first. Church was of the ultimate importance and it was crucial that her girls led a Christian existence, following the Bible literally and faithfully. It was the only way to ensure that they would all be together again in Heaven. Only in her death have I seen just how important that foundation is for her girls. Their faith, passed on by their mother, comforts them immensely. They know, without a shadow of a doubt, that their Mommy is in Heaven with Jesus. In fact, Courtney, Rebekah and Danielle give the adults strength. Joanne achieved something that most parents spend a lifetime trying to achieve…she instilled the core values that will stay with those girls for the rest of their lives. Sure, those values still need to be nurtured, but the important foundation is there. Joanne alone can take credit for that. Mark played a part, but only in Joanne’s death has he really had to step up to the plate in the values department. Not that he was a bad father by any stretch, in fact, exactly the opposite, it’s just that Joanne had all of the bases covered when it came to faith. Mark was more of an re-enforcer.

The number of lives that Joanne touched still amazes me. She rarely traveled, and yet, I believe she touched more lives from her home in little Alton, Ontario, than some traveling salespeople do! I don’t even think she tried to reach out to people. It just happened. She would meet someone in the grocery store line up or in the girls’ schoolyard. We had people at the funeral who said, “My name is ****. I never had the pleasure of meeting Joanne, but we spoke on the phone once or twice and I just felt compelled to come here today.” THAT is incredible. We had over 1,000 people at her funeral. It was more than any of us even dreamed. It was a tribute to the life that Joanne led, larger than anyone had ever imagined.

So, as I said in the beginning of this tribute, it all makes perfect sense. Her dying young is not so shocking when you think of it outside of the emotional human brain…I strongly believe that Joanne was sent to earth differently than most. I like to think of her as having a special job, almost like Jesus had. I am not trying to say that Joanne was anywhere close to the level that Jesus was, but I believe that she, like Him, was put on earth with a specific purpose, a purpose that she was able to fulfill within a short time. She told me on numerous occasions that she was “so, so excited about going to Heaven.” She simply couldn’t wait to get there. That gives me great comfort. She knew where she was going and she knew she’d get there quickly. Joanne was more Christian than anyone I have ever met. More than all the priests and the Bishop I have met, more than anyone.

I know, with every ounce of my being, that she is in Heaven. She is there with my Dad, who she can take FULL credit for saving. She begged him to become a believer before he died. Her efforts were unrelenting and my father and I would chuckle at her insistence, acknowledging that it was Dad’s fault for her being so stubborn!!! Towards the end of his illness, Joanne prayed with him and he finally took Jesus into his heart.

And so, they are sitting on comfy chairs, looking down, smiling, knowing that they have one more Christian who will join them someday! I plan to live my life as close to the way Joanne lived hers as possible. She was an inspiration. She planted the seed. I need to nurture that seed, and spread the Word, so that one day, we will all be together again!

Rest in Peace Joanne. Your legacy lives on and on… Pin It

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